What Sin Is, 1 Jn 3:4


The Bible is very clear on the subject of what sin is.  You do not have to guess what sin is.  The Lord tells you explicitly.  Just look at these verses.  Sin is:

Breaking the law – “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law,” (1 John 3:4).  Never mind that some preachers tell you not to pay attention to the law since you are not under the law.  The law is a great guide for life and shows you what sin is.  Since when was committing adultery alright for a Christian?

All unrighteousness – “All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death,” (1 John 5:17).  Bob Jones, Sr.’s solution for this sin was a simple two-word admonition, “Do right!”  So often, Christians are tempted to do something wrong hoping God will somehow bless them in it.  God cannot bless sin!  Also, pretending to be humble or spiritual isn’t right, either.  See, it helps to know what sin is.

Partiality among people – “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors,” (James 2:9).  This is so common among professing Christians.  They don’t want church members on whom they are going to have to spend some money; deacons are the money men.  They have a sense of denominational pride.  They refuse to help or pray for an enemy.

Unfulfilled good intentions – “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin,” (James 4:17).  When you see someone who has a legitimate need and you have the ability to help them, you need to help them.  You should never have to say, “Well, I meant to do such and such for old so and so, but I just never got around to it.”

Doubt – “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” (Rom 14:23).  With all the talk about faith, it is incredible how much of the Christian life is lived apart from faith.  Most of the “big” ministries are in debt up to their ears and are begging for money.  How much junk goes into the mouths of Christians that God didn’t give them the faith to eat, smoke, dip, chew, or drink?

Foolish thoughts – “The thought of foolishness is sin: and the scorner is an abomination to men,” (Prov 24:9).  Most of the trouble about which Christians worry (oh yeah, that’d be a sin, too), never comes to pass.  They just “think” it’s going to happen.  Those are foolish thoughts.  Thinking about how others are praising you is foolish, too.

Pride and arrogance – “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin,” (Prov 21:4).  Look at that verse.  Even the work that a lost man does, regardless of how good it is, is sin.  For a Christian, the secret pride of success and appearance is sin.

These are not what you ordinarily think of when you think about what sin is.  Most people usually refer to one or more of the commandments when asked about the definition of sin.  Those are all covered under the first item above, breaking the law.   These other six items cover a lot more ground.  You should strive to limit these in your life, as well.

A preacher once gave the following as the 5 stages of sin.  Ask yourself in which stage you actually sin:

  • Presentation – the opportunity to sin is made available
  • Illumination – you have light on the sin, i.e., “let him that stole steal no more.”
  • Debate – you work it over in your mind trying to decide whether to sin
  • Decision – you make up your mind to sin
  • Action – you act on the decision

You sin in the third stage, when you begin to debate about it.  It is important to realize that sin occurs long before you act on it.  Jesus said that sins like murder and adultery occur in your heart without you acting on them or even to deciding to commit them.  So, “keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life,” [Prov 4:23].